How Good Parents Miss Child Sexual Abuse: The 5 Critical Questions You MUST Ask (w/audio)


Update:  I published this during the summer months (2015).

It spread rapidly across quite a few popular websites and I got a great deal of positive feedback.  

May we get better every day at protecting children and keeping them safe.

How do good parents miss the signs of child sexual abuse

It is simple.

By not asking the right questions, at the right time.

Allow me to demonstrate….

One day my son went to a classmate’s home for a Halloween costume party.  When I picked him up a few hours later I could tell by the ear to ear grin on his face that he had a great time.

As we were about to leave, I was standing at the door with his little friend’s father and grandmother.

Both adults were giving me a great report about my son’s behavior.  I was a relieved parent. Thank goodness.  No issues.  No worries.

I quickly scooted my happy kid in the car and started to drive home.

But as I drove, I felt uneasy.  Something was off. 

Then it hit me!

Forgetting that I was on the road driving along with other people, I swerved into the next parking lot.  

No signal. And, I absolutely got a well-deserved honk from the driver behind me.

But, this was a critical moment.

Whatever I did or said at this moment, could impact the rest of my family’s life forever.

Déjà vu.

I had encountered this critical moment before.  

Only, I was living in the role of the child then.


Lesson Origin

Back in the day, when I was a little girl, I was abused by a teen relative. I was molested by this kid nearly every time my mother left me at a certain grandmother’s house.


Yeah, he was a young, troubled teen himself.  He was old enough to watch me, but unbeknownst to others, he wasn’t well enough. 

Whenever we were alone, he took out his own pain, anger, and disappointment on me in some especially cruel ways.

Nearly every instance of cruelty involved sexual violation and rape.  The older he got, the more curious he was about all things sex, sex, sex. 

Of course, that meant, little Tonya who was in her early elementary school years, was subjected to more hellish acts of cruelty. One of the things about any form of child abuse is the overbearing sense of loneliness and hopelessness. You can be convinced that no one can help you.  

Where was my mother? 

I came up during the time when children were unquestionably obedient. Parents were stern. My mother was young, smart, nurturing, loving, and stern. 

During this season in our lives, she was working, completing a college degree, and volunteering at my elementary school.  Mom has always been extremely protective of me and my other two siblings. So much so, that people often said that she was overprotective.

Out of necessity, we were left in the care of people she thought that she could trust for brief periods of time. But, each time that my mother picked us up from someone she trusted, she checked in. 

She asked us questions.  “Busy, protective, stern,” parent questions. It was very important to my mother that her children were obedient and well-behaved.  So, her quality assurance questions were standard practice

You know:

“Were you good?”

“Did you behave?”

“Did you listen?”

“Did anybody mess with you?”  

Were you a good girl?”

What mom didn’t know is that the male teen who was living there had already threatened me before she had even arrived.   

Sometimes he’d even be standing behind her balling up his fists or giving me mean looks.

She couldn’t see this, but I most definitely could. 

I was terrified. I was petrified. Every single day was an ongoing nightmare.

I was scared silent.




Asking me those questions, especially in front of a person who was using me for sexual experimentation reinforced in my young mind that I was supposed to do whatever I was told by the person who was watching me while she was gone.

When my mother asked me questions like : 

 “Did you behave?”

“Did you listen?”

“Were you a good girl?”

I said, “yes”.  Could I really change my answer later? 

Would that be a lie too?

Wouldn’t I have to explain why I “lied” when she asked me earlier?

So, I lied. 

It was so confusing. I was terrified.

From that time on, I felt as if I was living a nightmare that I could never wake up from.

It was a setup of sorts.

From those moments up and through my early adult years, I would always feel that I had brief moments of happiness in between long stretches of torture.

 When parents ask children questions like:

“Did you behave?”

“Did you listen?”

“Were you a good girl?”

…whether they were good in front of children and adults, most children feel pressured to say, “yes“.

5 Important Questions

Back in the parking lot I turned around and looked, actually looked, into my son’s eyes.

I calmed myself down and I started all over again.

I asked the correct questions.

Perhaps you may want to consider asking these questions the next time that your child is in someone else’s care.

Try to remember to make these questions a consistent habit.

It might be helpful to remind your children that they can always add details about what occurred while they were away from you.  

The truth is, parents must always ask the right questions, at the right time.   

My mistake that day was a common one for parents.  

Sometimes, as parents, we think that as long as we ask a question. Any question. We are on top of things.

My mother regrets making that mistake each and every single day.  In fact, she is the one who encouraged me to write about our experiences. 

It is her hope that our experience will assist other parents doing the very best they can to keep their children safe.

NOTE:  We are available to speak groups about this topic.

From our family to yours…..

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